Obama’s true legacy: A black father figure

Obama’s true legacy: A black father figure

For millions of black Americans, Barack Obama’s legacy is not going to be Obamacare, nor his decision to move troops out of Iraq, nor what he does about immigration.

No, it will be the image of him as a black father – of him, for example, standing at the White House and declaring, after the 2012 racially charged killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin, “this could have been my son.”

For all the accusations that Obama waffles and wavers when it comes to controversial issues affecting African Americans, there is a widespread perception of him as the model of black fatherhood. It is a view of him that I share, and it means a lot to me, because I know in personal ways the difference that the presence, or absence, of a dad can make in a young black man’s life.

So much of my writing over the years has been about the disrespect and even viciousness with which police officers treat black and Latino men. The brutality against Eric Garner, who died 10 days ago after a white officer placed him in what seems to have been a chokehold, is just the latest case.

But I have to say – and this isn’t easy, because tough love never is – that our collective shortcomings as African-American fathers also cause me great distress. Unlike the beatings, chokings and shootings our black youngsters are too frequently victims of – from the police, yes, but often from other black males – the pain of paternal abandonment is a dull ache in the heart that, in the end, can do as much damage as a bullet.

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